First published as The Metamorphosis of the Eucharist by The Christian Community in New York in about 1954. This edition, revised by James H. Hindes, published by Floris Books in 1995. All rights reserved. NOTE: This is the complete pamphlet.
2. The New Testament
3. Early Christian services
4. Archetypal structure
5. Pre-Christian mysteries and the Eastern Church
6. The western Mass and action
7. The Reformation
8. The Act of Consecration of Man
9. Gospel and Offertory
10. The Transubstantiation
11. The Communion
On the eve of the event of Golgotha, on Maundy Thursday, Christ Jesus celebrated the Last Supper together with his disciples. He gave bread and wine and with them his ‘body’ and ‘blood,’ and charged them when repeating this to do it in remembrance of him. Out of this Last Supper has been developed the Eucharist, the ritual of the Mass. It is now celebrated by The Christian Community, Movement for Religious Renewal, in its new form, still containing the four main parts: reading of the Gospel, Offering, Transubstantiation and Communion.
The question sometimes arises: does this elaborated ritual really have any foundations in original Christianity? Is it based on the New Testament? The Protestant Church tried to keep close to the letter of the New Testament, and rejected everything which in the further course of Christendom seemed to have been added to the text of New Testament scripture.
There is no doubt that the New Testament is the basic, classical book of Christianity. Through the modern science of Anthroposophy, which is a science of spiritual knowledge, a new possibility is given to acknowledge the ‘inspired’ character of the New Testament writings. It is one of the tasks of The Christian Community to cultivate a new concrete understanding of the scriptures as documents of real inspiration. But we must not forget that for the first generations of Christendom the New Testament did not yet exist. The Epistles of St Paul were apparently written beginning about AD 50, the first three Gospels not before AD 60-70 and St John’s Gospel not until AD 100. It was not before the end of the second century that these writings were combined into a New Testament. The canon of the New Testament was not definitely fixed until AD 393 by the Church synod at Hippo Regius in North Africa. In this process of bringing together these twenty-seven writings, which constitute the wonderful spiritual organism of the New Testament, we venerate an act of divine guidance and providence, an act of inspiration. Nevertheless the first Christian generations had to do without these writings. Instead of this they had the apostolic nearness of the Christ event, and they had the Eucharist. The Christian Church lived for a certain time without a New Testament, but it never lived without the Eucharist from the very beginning.
The Eucharist is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, after the experience of the Holy Spirit at Whitsun: ‘… they broke bread in the houses with spiritual rejoicing’ (Acts 2:46). This is the first Eucharist after Holy Thursday and a first metamorphosis can be seen. The Last Supper was celebrated in a mood of leave-taking which was overshadowed by the events to come. After Whitsun a jubilant mood was experienced. The Greek word, agalliasis, means more than ‘joy’; it is a kind of spiritual enthusiasm and exaltation. The Last Supper had been a farewell meeting. After Pentecost it was like a first dawn of his second spiritual coming.
From the beginning the Eucharist was never a mere repetition of the Last Supper. The latter is like a seed which now begins growing. One cannot argue against the growing plant that it is different from the seed. There is identity, but there is also metamorphosis.
The Last Supper, on the eve of Good Friday, is a kind of anticipation, a prophetic summary of the event of Golgotha. It reveals what Christ and his deed mean to man: that Christianity is not only ‘doctrine’ and ‘ethics,’ that Christ is not only a teacher and an example, but that he descended to earth as a divine being and transformed his divinity into humanity by going through death and resurrection. He transformed the ‘wave-length’ of his divinity into that of humanity and thus became accessible and ‘communicable.’ Now we are to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ him spiritually in order to be more and more penetrated by his heavenly substance. The essence of Christianity can be seen in Christ offering himself to his followers: ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ me, take me into your whole being.
That which is demonstrated in anticipation in the Last Supper received its fulfilment through Golgotha, through death and resurrection. After this fulfilment the Eucharist is no longer the anticipation but now conveys the substantial radiation and emanation of this great deed.
During the forty days to Ascension and in the ten days from Ascension to Whitsun we do not yet hear about the disciples celebrating the Eucharist. But immediately after Whitsun they begin. At Ascension Christ grew into a new form of existence, definitely outgrowing his former Jesus-existence which limited him to a certain spot in the spatial world. In his Ascension, he weaves his original divinity together with his humanity which he took through his earthly life and death. Thus his resurrection body reaches its full capacity to be omnipresent. At Whitsun, in an act of spiritual awakening, the disciples threw off a certain spell of dullness and dream under which they had lived through the preceding weeks. It is a remarkable fact that the manifestations of the risen Christ after Easter were not yet able to induce the disciples to preach this message to people beyond their own intimate circle. With Pentecost they proved to be strong enough to do so. As Christ had overcome the last limitations and restrictions of his existence at Ascension, so the disciples overcame their limitations of consciousness and will power at Whitsun. Thus they started celebrating the Eucharist by ‘breaking bread in the houses.’ Christ’s prophetical saying, that he would celebrate his meal ‘anew in his father’s kingdom’ (with which he united himself at Ascension) begins to fulfil itself.